Boning Up

Chicken BrothI like saving bones from bone-in cuts of meat/poultry and making broth with them. It’s usually chicken broth I have simmering in the slow cooker. There has also been beef broth, pork broth, vegetable broth, and lobster broth. I save making saimin (ramen) broth for the stove because it requires layering flavors and when the slow cooker is on, I tend to walk away and forget.

Making your own broth will help you stretch your dollar and ditch all those additives and the ton of sodium in store bought broths.

It also makes your home smell delicious.

The batch pictured is one I processed in a pressure canner. I do not always process my broth. In the Winter, I tend to use it quickly so I simply store it in the fridge. I intended to process the last batch I made, but I had unexpected company and wound up freezing it instead. Any of the three ways you can save it will work.

I’ve discovered that the trick to great broth is keeping it simple and to follow Michael Ruhlman’s rule of ratios. Only use enough water to cover your bones and vegetables. You get a perfect broth every time. Not too watery and not too meaty.

Slow Cooker Chicken Broth – yields 7-10 cups

Chicken bones (I typically have an entire carcass from a whole roasted chicken)

1/8 cup cooked chicken or the whole wings from the chicken

1 1/2 onions, halved

1 bunch fresh thyme

salt

distilled white vinegar (optional, do not use if you need to be yeast-free)

filtered water

Place chicken bones, chicken, onions, and thyme in your six-quart slow cooker. Add enough water to just cover the ingredients. Add a splash of vinegar and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Strain through a chinois or a strainer lined with a handkerchief. Process in a pressure canner or store in the fridge or the freezer.

Lemon Basil Chicken

Lemon Basil Chicken

My favorite way of fixing a whole chicken in order to reuse leftovers in salads and other dishes is to roast it in a slow cooker.  One good thing my mother taught me in the kitchen was to stuff turkeys with oranges and apples to keep it moist rather than stuff it with stuffing.  I took this lesson and applied it to chicken and varied the items I used to stuff.  Lemons.  Limes. Onions.  Garlic.  Fresh herbs.  Dried herbs.  It’s nearly limitless what you can stuff into a chicken.  There really is no right or wrong way to do it either.

Truss the chicken?  Pffft.  Trussing is for overachievers.  I learned how to truss a long time ago.  I probably could if I really wanted to, but why bother?  There is usually a loose flap of skin on poultry that you can tuck the end of the legs into.  Just stuff the chicken, tuck the legs and place in the slow cooker.  It doesn’t get simpler than that.

I make my chicken go a long way.  Along with this dinner of chicken, artichokes, and mashed potatoes, I used leftover meat to make Chicken Stew and Chicken Salad.  I used the juices to make mashed potatoes in place of butter for a different dinner.  And I used the bones along with veggie scraps I was saving in the freezer to make the broth for the chicken stew.  One chicken, four dishes, eight meals.   Yes, my dinner leftovers are always lunch for the following day.  It’s the easiest way for me to make sure I have a good healthy lunch.  Besides, sometimes leftovers are even better than the first time around.

Lemon Basil Chicken

1 whole chicken

1/2 onion, halved

1 lemon, quartered

large sprig basil (you want lots of leaves on the sprig)

salt and pepper to taste

If you grease your slow cooker take care of that first.  Stuff the main cavity of the chicken with 3 of the lemon quarters, the basil sprig and one of onion quarters.  Stuff the rear cavity with the remaining lemon and onion.  Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and rub the seasoning into the skin well.  Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Remove to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before carving it.

Lazy Sauce

Cut tomatoes around the core to make them easier to seed and chop.

When you think of spaghetti sauce do you think of slaving over a stove for hours stirring your life away?  That’s how I learned to make it.  Slaving in the kitchen for something that turns out amazing.  It’s worth the work if you have the time.  And the patience.  There are days that I don’t have either.  When my Filipino tapeworm rumbles, it must be fed or there is no end to the grumbling.  Add to that the nature of my job being so physical.  Sometimes I don’t want to be in the kitchen forever.  My feet like to rest, too.

These days my sauces for pasta are easy.  Things that won’t take me a long time to do.  Chop, chop, chop, throw in pot.  Or pan.  Stir a few times.  Voila!  Easy.

What makes it even easier is when you have leftovers to use up but don’t know what to do with them.

Tonight, I made a meat sauce chock full of vegetables.  My intention was to just use tomatoes and a zucchini.  That’s all I bought for the sauce.  However, I found myself with half an eggplant that needed to be used or it would end up tossed and some mushrooms that Chaz bought, but didn’t use.  That would be a lot of chopping though.  I didn’t want to do a lot of chopping.  My body is still in recovery from being glutened 4 times in 2 weeks and work has been very busy which

Veggies in the food processor

has added to the physical stress on my body.  I also had an ACE treatment (acupuncture, chiropractic, and energy work) this afternoon.  So the other question was, prep before or after the appointment?

I chose before.  I threw all the produce in the food processor and then added it to the crock pot with the leftover meatloaf.  It didn’t look quite so colorful as before I started the processor, but there was still flavor and lots of nutrients!

This sauce lends itself to using just about anything for a pasta sauce that you might need to use up.  It helps to stretch that dollar.  You can stretch it even more by saving your veggie trimmings in a ziploc bag in the freezer for making broth later.  I like to use carrots in my sauce when I have them.  I don’t normally use eggplant because it does change the color and the taste of the sauce significantly.  I always use tomatoes and garlic, though.  Always.  That is a must.  I’m hoping the tomato plant I bought Sunday will yield some nice tomatoes in the future for more Lazy Sauce.

Lazy Sauce (serves 6)

1/2 leftover gluten-free meatloaf (if you don’t eat meat or want meat that night, use beans)

Pasta with Lazy Sauce

5 tomatoes, seeded

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 zucchini, 3 inch slices

4 baby bella mushrooms (ends trimmed)

1 handful basil leaves

salt

Process tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, and basil in food processor for about 4 minutes.  Add veggies through the tube if everything won’t fit at one time.  Place the processed produce in a slow cooker on low with the leftover meatloaf (or beans).  Stir after an hour to help break up the meatloaf.  Cook for at least 6 hours on low.   The longer you have it in the slow cooker the more flavor develops and the juicier it becomes.  Add salt about 30  minutes before serving.  Garnish with anything you like.  Fresh herbs, cheese, etc.  For tonight’s dinner, I garnished with Parmesan cheese and Crushed Chili Pepper.